Monday, November 19, 2012

HR Manager Has Personal Connection With Soap Recycling

Astrid Zelaya grew up in a place where many people lacked basic hygiene necessities, which is why she is such a big supporter of Clean the World. Currently a human resources manager at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando, Astrid spent most of her life in Honduras.

Her family was luckier than many because Astrid’s father worked for Chiquita Bananas in Honduras. It wasn’t easy to support six daughters on his salary, but the family had everything they needed.

“I didn’t suffer, but I saw suffering in the people around us,” said Astrid. “I went to different fields where farmers grew bananas, and it was so hard for me to understand why I had everything in my house and they didn’t. These other families lived just five kilometers away, but it was a different world.”

Although Astrid’s family lived in the banana fields, the company provided a nice house with all the modern conveniences and accommodations. However, nearby farmers who didn’t work for the company lived in small homes without showers and they bathed in the river. When visiting those fields with her father, Astrid saw children without clothes or shoes. At the tender age of 7, this realization had a significant affect on her.

“I asked my parents why people lived that way,” said Astrid. “So they started collecting the clothes we outgrew, and I enjoyed going to those little aldeas, which is what we call the small towns, and giving them things that were still in good condition. They were so happy with what they received. So I have that memory from my childhood.”

Astrid’s desire to help others stayed with her when she went to college and earned a degree in industrial engineering. She worked with other students to collect clothing and food, which they would deliver to various aldeas on Saturdays as a community service.

In the years following college, Astrid worked in Honduras and traveled internationally for business while her family relocated to the United States. Her father’s declining health eventually prompted Astrid to come to the U.S. as well.

“When I came here, I applied to I sent out so many resumes,” said Astrid. “No one was calling me for an interview because I didn’t have experience here. Then one day I was in front of the Nickelodeon Suites Resort, and I loved the colors and loved that it was a family hotel. I just thought it would be an amazing place for me. So I stopped.”

At the time, the hotel was looking for someone to run the laundry facility. That was an interesting stroke of luck, because Astrid previously spent eight years in the garment industry. She worked for a company that operated an industrial laundry facility in Honduras. The facility washed denim pants manufactured there for American clothing brands.

After she was well into her career in the garment industry, Astrid earned a degree in human resources and went to work as a consultant. So when she came to the United States, the job at Nickelodeon Suites was a match made in heaven.

Astrid accepted an offer from Nickelodeon to work as the laundry supervisor. While working with the laundry team, which was primarily staffed by Haitian immigrants, she noticed employees opening up folded washcloths to remove bars of soap which were set aside. That was her first exposure to Clean the World. The staff explained that the used soap was recycled and sent back to their country.

In 2008 the hotel had an opening in human resources and Astrid moved on from the laundry facility. By that time she had great relationships with people on the operations side of the hotel - and a strong appreciation for Clean the World’s mission.

Astrid also was selected to head up the company’s Green Committee. Her first goal was to secure a green designation for Nickelodeon Suites. Within a year, the Nickelodeon Suites Resort was recognized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection with a Green Lodging Certification for environmentally friendly hotel practices.

Between her HR position and her duties with the Green Committee, Astrid gets the opportunity to work with many members of the hotel’s housekeeping staff. She sees how proud they are to be part of the Global Hygiene Revolution by collecting soap for Clean the World.

“When they come back in the afternoon with a bag full of soap, they are so excited about what they have collected," said Astrid. "They smile because they know the bins are filling up. We connect on this issue because we all come from poor countries. We have all seen it. And that is why our housekeepers have the commitment to help Clean the World. They know it makes a difference for their people.”

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